Charles Francis Robert Hills

Charles Francis Robert Hills, No. 47888
2nd Battalion, 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade
Killed in action, 4 November 1918.

Born in Gisborne in 1897, Charles Francis Robert Hills was the eldest of Charles and Rose Hills’ 12 children. His father was a basketmaker and the family lived at Manutuke, outside Gisborne, close to the Waipāoa River. Charles was working as a coachbuilder in Gisborne and had just celebrated his twentieth birthday when he enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in January 1917.

After voyaging to England where he underwent final training, Charles arrived on the Western Front in early 1918. He became a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade and soon saw action when the German Army launched its Spring Offensive.

Following the eventual failure of the German offensive, the New Zealanders spent the summer in the Somme area, patrolling aggressively and fighting small actions to improve their position. Charles received a minor wound to his fingers in one of these engagements and was briefly hospitalised. He rejoined his battalion in early September, in time to participate in what became known as the Hundred Days’ Offensive

On 4 November 1918, one week before the Armistice, Charles was killed in action during the Rifle Brigade’s successful liberation of Le Quesnoy. He was one of about 80 riflemen killed during the assault on the town. In a letter to his father, Lieutenant Francis Soler described Charles’ last moments: ‘I was with them when he was killed by a machine-gun bullet, on the edge of the moat round Le Quesnoy yesterday. He was bravely using his gun, covering a section of his platoon, which was scaling the ancient ramparts across the moat.’ [1]

Notice of Charles’ death wasn’t received in New Zealand until after the Armistice was announced. Shortly after, his family placed a notice in the local newspaper in his memory:

‘“Killed in action,” say the cables –
That is all the tale they tell
Of the brave young lad who left us,
Of the lad we loved so well.’ [2]

Charles is buried in the Le Quesnoy Communal Cemetery Extension, just outside the town he helped to liberate. He is remembered at home on the First World War memorial in Gisborne.

Further information

Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph record – Charles Hills

Commonwealth War Graves Commission record – Charles Hills

'For Honor's Cause', Poverty Bay Herald, 25 November 1918, p. 4

New Zealand and Le Quesnoy



[1] Lieutenant Francis Soler to Mr Charles Hills, 5 November 1918 in Charles Hills’ personnel file, Archives NZ.

[2] ‘For Honor’s Cause’, Poverty Bay Herald, 25 November 1918, p. 4.

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